AHRC Connected Communities Showcase July 2013

Leeds Stories of the Great War was awarded funding from the AHRC in order to attend the Connected Communities Summit and to exhibit at the Public Showcase.

About the Summit

The event highlighted the rich and exciting research being undertaken through the Connected Communities Programme across the UK.

There was a mix of presentations, workshops, interactive and participatory break-outs, posters, exhibitions and performances.

Rather than being aimed at an academic audience, the Showcase was focused on providing opportunities to further extend and deepen the Programme’s engagement with organisations, communities and individuals from outside the higher education sector.

There were opportunities throughout the day to network with a wide range of researchers and community partners engaged in the Programme and to contribute to discussions about future plans for the Programme.

Aims of the Leeds Stories of the Great War Contribution

As the project is in its very early stages we wanted to use this as an opportunity to discuss the project with academics and community partners involved in other connected communities projects. We also wanted to gather ideas from the general public. So, we designed an exhibit that was interactive and encouraged passers-by to participate on whatever level was appropriate to their level of knowledge and experience of co-produced research.

 A participant writes / draws what she would like to know about her home town in the First World War.

A participant writes / draws what she would like to know about her home town in the First World War.

Process

When designing our exhibit the aim was to be fully inclusive as it was a public facing event and we wanted as many participants as possible. Therefore, we made sure that participation would not rely on any prior knowledge. We did, however, want to gauge whether people did have prior knowledge or not and what kind of knowledge that was. We also wanted to explore the kinds of interest / curiosity non-experts had in the topic.

There were numerous ways participants could get involved,

  • By reading our newly-printed banner to learn about the project
  • By answering one or both of the questions on our table
  1. What do you know about the First World War in your home town?
  2. What would you like to know about the First World War in your home town?
  • Coloured pens were available for writing or drawing answers, and we were there to note any verbal responses we received
  • By suggesting topics that we have not yet considered, and partners we could potentially work with to help explore topics further.
  • The incentive to participate was that they could have a sweet. 
The Banner we had printed in situ at the Showcase

The Banner we had printed in situ at the Showcase

The poster activity for which people could see our topics and partnerships and could add their own suggestions

The poster activity for which people could see our topics and partnerships and could add their own suggestions

Presenting the Leeds Stories of the Great War stand were; Prof. Alison Fell (Principal Investigator), Anna Wiseman (Project Officer) and Katy Hayley (Community Partner from ELFM). The diversity of roles represented by the team was also valuable as it enabled us to engage with different people in different ways. It demonstrated the project’s commitment to the practice of coproduction by including non academics as equal representatives. This challenge to conventional power structures and notions of authority in academic & community collaborative research is a key discussion point for many Connected Communities projects. The wide range of people at the summit could identify with the project easily as it did not present itself as exclusively academic but still retained the status of serious research.

Results

The exhibit was very successful, it was busy all day and a wide variety of people engaged with us and participated in at least one of the methods available.

Qs COMPRESSED

We collected:

  • 10 suggestions of Topics we could explore
  • 15 things that people wanted to know about their hometown in WW1
  • 9 Stories / pictures about what people already knew about their hometown in WW1

We were able to have some very interesting conversations with a wide range of people. This gave us the opportunity to start to listen to a general public about their ideas, preconceptions and questions about local stories from The First World War . This will help inform the way we ask questions in future public events.

The range of questions and interested that were revealed is demonstrated by the following word cloud:

WordItOut-Word-cloud-235642 (1)